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Eight Legged Freak

01/09/2002. Contributed by Mark R Leeper

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Our Mark discovers a film that goes for every pun and silly joke it can muster to fill in the spaces between those giant arachnid attacks. Pass the spider catcher, my dear.

a film review by Mark R. Leeper

CAPSULE: Giant spiders attack a small Arizona town. This is a film that goes for every pun and silly joke it can muster to fill in the spaces between its giant arachnid attacks. The plotting is obvious and full of holes, but the film is fun in a drive-in sort of way. This is a movie for just about anyone with any capacity for enjoying giant spider movies. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)

Now let's get this straight at the start. We are talking about giant spider movies here. We are not talking about spiders as big as dogs like in WORLD WITHOUT END, QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE, or the 1960 THE LOST WORLD. We are talking here about the about spiders that are bigger than a Subaru. We are talking TARANTULA-class.

Not counting spider-machine in THE WILD, WILD WEST, I cannot remember any giant spiders on the wide screen since 1975's THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION. In the meantime the drive-ins have pretty much died out, sadly, and a drive-in is a place to see a giant spider film. You want to see your really big spiders on a really big screen and, if possible, you want it to be out in some semblance of nature where giant bugs seem a little more possible.

Eight Legged Freak

The few drive-ins that remain just have to show this film. This film and drive-ins were made for each other.

The film was directed and co-written by Ellory Elkayem who admittedly may be is something of a rut. The thirty-year-old New Zealander has three notable films to his credit at this point. In 1997 he made "Larger Than Life," a short horror film about spiders who grew to giants on toxic wastes. I saw it on the Sci-Fi Channel's "Exposure" and found it fun.

He did a similar story about giant insects in Maine, THEY NEST, for the USA Network. Now his EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS is an expansion of "Larger Than Life" into a feature length film. The digital effects leave the 1950s giant arthropod films in the dust. They looked impressive in "Larger Than Life" with a short amateur film as a frame, but they are not enough to carry a feature film very far by themselves.

The script helps with a few good jokes, but still this is never more than a good drive-in film, somewhat past the era of drive-ins. I expect that Oscars are out of the question.

Prosperity, Arizona is a town that just cannot live up to its optimistic name. In past years it was the site of a gold mine, but that mine gave out long ago and the mayor is thinking of selling the whole town to someone who wants to use the mine as a toxic waste dump. Trucks are already moving the waste in, and one a barrel rolls off a truck and into a pond.

A local spider fancier and fanatic collects at the same pond crickets to feed to his little arachnid beauties - mostly hunting spiders of various types. The spiders eat the crickets and the toxic waste turns on their little spider growth mechanism. Soon crickets are not enough and it is the spider fancier they are eating. Then it is local pets. Of course, we all know that they are working up to eating people. And that, incidentally, is part of the problem of the script.

We all know what they are working up to. Early on there is a mention of another local hazard unrelated to the spiders. We all know that is how the spiders will meet their end. Every viewer with an ounce of spider sense knows immediately that the two hazards will cancel each other out in the end and that will be the end of the spiders. But we want to watch it happen anyway.

The last similar film, THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION, had terrible special effects. It all too obviously had its giant spider built on a VW bug. As it walked the stomach pulled it rather than the legs. Effects have come a long way. These beauties look just real enough. They look alive. Not that they are perfect. There is something wrong with how the jumping spiders chase the dirt bikes in this film. The bikes are covering more ground than the spiders are, but the spiders still seem to catch up.

Also the spiders can walk ceilings. Real spiders do that mostly because they have low mass. These brutes could never hold on to a ceiling. And actually there are a whole bunch of reasons you cannot have a big animal breathe the way spiders breathe or walk the way spiders walk. Or . . . . Well, never mind.

The characters in the story are mostly clichés. We have familiar characters like the brainy kid, the stupid deputy, and the dishonest mayor. There are plot holes and lots of things that make no sense. But you overlook that sort of thing because, well, there are these nifty giant spiders. I rate it 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2002 Mark R. Leeper

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